Nature Notes - Mallorca 2005
Last year in Mallorca I was only able to identify 3 grasses that weren't familiar to me from Britain. This time I did a lot better, as there was a much greater variety of them in flower, but they inevitably included some mystery grasses that I couldn't pin down.
I'm going to start with the obvious ones and then move on to the more difficult, leaving the toughest till last! But even some of the "obvious" ones I may have got wrong - and will be very grateful for any corrections.
One of the commonest and most distinctive grasses in Mallorca is the Harestail, Lagurus ovatus, shown in close-up in the first picture and en masse in the second. It is very short, with short broad leaves, and the infloresence looks intensely woolly when it first appears, but less so when the flowers are open as here.
On the left is the Small Melick, Melica minuta. It is not particularly small, and the one-sided spikes of purple and white florets are a frequent sight by the roadside. On the right is the Rough Dogstail, Cynosurus echinatus, a relative of our own Crested Dogstail (C cristatus) but looking very different with its brush of long awns. When examined closely it has the same structure of fertile and sterile florets as ours.
While we're on the easy ones, a couple of species that I showed last year with their dead infloresences of the previous summer. As it was later in the season this time I was able to get them with fresh growth. The very tall grass Ampelodesmos mauritanica (with Tree Spurge in the lower right) and the V-shaped Hyparrhenia hirta.
The trio of hanging spikelets belong to Large Quaking-grass (Briza maxima). They are still in bud. The Common Quaking-grass in Britain is B media, which has much smaller spikelets but many more of them. This does not occur in Mallorca, but an even smaller kind, the Small Quaking-grass, (B minor), does and is apparently quite frequent; I didn't find it however.
If only all grasses were as distinctive as the one on the right, Aegilops geniculata. This is a short grass with only about 3 very swollen spikelets per stem. The glumes each have 3 very long serrated awns, and the lemmas each have 2. Unlike those of the Rough Dogstail shown earlier, the awns are spread out to give a spiky effect. This species is closely related to Wheat but is just a small weedy thing with no commercial use. I found it on a stony pathside.
These two kinds of Oat are, I think, native to Mallorca. The first is Winter Wild Oat (Avena sterilis) and the second is Bearded Oat (Avena barbata). Both have long awns, but the second has the lemma teeth extended into bristles some 4-10 mm long (c 7 mm on the ones I checked). Other species of Oat may be found as escapes from cultivation.
The compact green head belongs to Rostraria cristata (with some Aegilops on the ground in the top left), and the untidy red ones to Anisantha madritensis, or Red Brome, the only one of Mallorca's many Brome species that I was able to positively identify, and seemingly the commonest. It's a floppy plant and not always as uniformly red as shown here.
The stiff inflorescence of Fern Grass, Catapodium ridigum, a tiny prostrate radiating grass on a bare path. On the right is a very dwarfed form of the common British (but not Skye) and Mallorcan plant Wall Barley, Hordeum murinum, beside a path at the foot of a bare rock-face. Normal-sized versions of it were seen elsewhere, but I didn't photograph those as I knew what they were. Growing with this dwarfed form were very tiny plants of what may have been Catapodium rigidum again, with unbranched spikes and unstalked spikelets like C marinum (but was not by the sea) or a Lolium. These Bonsai grasses you get in hard dry places are very tricky - but quite attractive.
Now onto more dubious claims. I'm reasonably confident the first of these is Bulbous Meadow-grass, Poa bulbosa, which is said to be common in Mallorca - though not as common as Annual Meadow-grass which behaves much as it does here in Britain. The second picture shows a viviparous grass which had me completely foxed, but I have since discovered that Poa bulbosa has a viviparous form, and web pictures of it look much like mine, with the plantlets having a purple bulbous base. So this may be Poa bulbosa var vivipara. It was growing on a minor path between the trees in hill country, in rather dark conditions, hence the poor photo.
Mystery grasses. The first was a "tiny grass" in bare dirt among stones in partial shade. Did not take many notes on this, but from the picture it seems to have two long and one short awns per spikelet, and hairy glumes about 2.5 mm long.
The second was frequent in coastal sand at Es Trenc. The small picture shows its prostrate radiating habit, and the other shows a close-up of its Fescue-like spikelets. Glumes c 3 and 3.5 mm. Lemmas c 5.5 mm, with tiny awn-like point at tip, keeled on the back, with minutely toothed edges near tip, well separated up the rachis. c 5 florets per spikelet. Panicle branches at most 2 together, one with one stalked spikelet, one with one unstalked spikelet. Plant hairless including lemma base. Stems to 7 cm long. Ligule c 0.5-1.5 mm with very jagged tip. Lemmas not blunt enough and plant not stiff enough for Catapodium.
I also saw what I took to be Perennial Ryegrass, Lolium perenne. This is a common British grass so I didn't take its picture, but I realise now it could have been L rigidum which is equally common in Mallorca. Will have to sort them out next time.
March 2004 Grasses
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer